Sunday, September 20, 2015

Good, Evil and Whiskey

“Rule number one: Always stick around for one more drink. That’s when things happen. That’s when you find out everything you want to know.”

For my first blog post with my fancy new design (Thanks, Jennifer!), I wanted to read/bake something special, something exciting to really get the ball rolling—something that would leave me with a lot of extra whiskey to drink.

If you bothered to read to the ‘About Books & Batter’ section over in the left column, you know I live in Savannah, Georgia. So I thought what better boozy book to reintroduce this blog than “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ by John Berendt. This nonfiction novel is all Old South, meaning it’s about money, murder and martinis. It’s set in Savannah in 1981 and revolves around the author’s eight-year stay in the Hostess City, during which he met some extremely interesting, borderline alcoholic people and possibly befriended a murderer.

Although Berendt admits he took some liberties in the timeline of his story, all the characters and events are real. YES, you can visit Savannah and go see the house where the murder took place. YES, you can see the Bird Girl statue on the front cover for the price of admittance into the Telfair museum. And YASSS, you can go downtown to Club One and catch the famous drag queen entertainer, Lady Chablis still singing and dancing at the age of 58.

This book isn't for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a murder mystery, true, but I think what holds this book up are the characters and their descriptions. The characters are quirky, crooked, gentile, magical and most of all truly, completely Southern.

I thought it was appropriate to honor this book with a heavily southern drink turned cupcake. I took the cocktail recipe for Sazerac, and turned it into 24 cupcakes that will knock you on your ass. Sazerac (technically local to New Orleans—sue me) is usually made from a combo of rye, absinthe, Peychaud's Bitters, and sugar. This drink is NOT for riding the Savannah tour bus in the summer heat. You will die. It’s more for sitting in a square while your servant holds an umbrella over your shoulders for shade.

For the cupcakes, I took out the absinthe and replaced it with anise extract, which is supposed to be licorice extract basically. I think I was probably a bit heavy handed with it though—or maybe I just don’t love the taste of licorice very much.

This recipe calls for you to separate the yolk from the whites. I found it easiest to CAREFULLY move the yolk from one half of the shell to the other. The eggs whites will slip out into your bowl.

The frosting is also deliciously whiskey flavored, if you were wondering. It was originally a beige color, but I used some red food dye to keep with the murder theme here. Not as gorgeous as I wanted, but ya’ll. These cupcakes are GOOD.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: 5 stars

Suarez cupcakes: 4.5 stars

“Two tears in a bucket. Motherfuck it.”

“If there’s a single trait common to all Savannahians, it’s their love of money and their unwillingness to spend it.”

“The South is one big drag show, honey…”

“He had been found lying on the carpet behind the desk in the very spot where he would have fallen eight years earlier, if Danny Hansford had actually fired a gun and the shots has found their mark.”

Sazerac Cupcake Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

dash of salt

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup milk

3 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon of anise extract

1/2 teaspoon Peychaud’s bitters (found at any decent booze store)

However much rye whiskey you can stand.

1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar in a different bowl until smooth and well blended.

3. Turn mixer to low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, 1/3 at a time alternating with the milk. Mix well.

4. Add extract, bitters, and whiskey.

5. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites. You want them stiff but still moist. (That was an odd sentence to type.) Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter at a time.

6. Pour into cupcake tins lined with paper cupcake holders and bake for about 20 minutes.

Whiskey Butter Cream Frosting

2 sticks salted butter, slightly softened (a table spoon or more if you like a lot of frosting)

4 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 heaping table spoons rye whiskey

a few dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

1. Make sure you add the sugar a little at a time. It'll help keep the frosting smooth and not clumpy.

Happy baking!